Yes, you read correctly. There is a new approach David Allen, the GTD guy, wrote in his book “Making it all work“. Or maybe it is not a new approach but a different thinking I personally like.
He says pretty much to forget about a work life balance. David argues that people put too much emphasis and pressure trying to separate the two: work & life. He further says that the concept of balance is irrelevant as you only seem to focus on it when you don’t have it.
By just focusing on what you are doing that moment, trying not to count the minutes you play with your dog as supposed to type your article for the press, it gives you more energy. It is about living in the now and thinking about “What am I doing”, “What is next”. David says that the key element is to eliminate the distraction, whatever its source, and to have focused alignment in whatever you’re doing.
I find this approach quite right. If I worked for myself or at home and let’s say I have to go shopping, then I go shopping. In return, I work late at night catching up with my emails. Of course, some companies already offer that, and it is a common approach for some. And, I would not differentiate between my work and my private life.
By desperately trying to separate the two, e.g. working 9-5 in an office, then going home and not looking at any work related things at all, would put more pressure on me. Naturally I try to not think about work when home and not thinking about home when at work. Maybe the way I demonstrate it exaggerates things, but generally speaking, I agree to not separate the two.
Personally, I don’t mind having a day off but checking and in urgent cases responding to my emails, or even make a phone call. When I get home after work, I surely want to spend as much time as possible with my boy, then put him to bed. And, if there is important work, I might just work for another hour or so. In return, I would (and can) expect my employer to give me time if my child is ill and I have to work from home, or come in late as I need to go and see the doctor with him.
But, and that is the way I understand David Allen, people in general worry too much and think too much about the “what if” rather than “what’s next”. It is about productivity and about making the most of your time. If you are officially at work or at home or if you just in “your time”. And that is what counts.
Of course for blue collar workers that have more of a regulated, maybe even machine driven work pace, things are different as they cannot really do anything else whilst supervising a production line. And, whilst being at home, there might less work to be done. Work might not be as flexible.
Bottom line: Stop Worrying, and Start Living. Dale Carnegie wrote about that more than 60 years ago.
Stop being desperate about a balance between work and life. Treat all as life and organise yourself. From there, you will be productive: for work, for life, for yourself.
Hope that makes sense.